More than anything, Obama’s loathing for Washington, an attitude that reads as ennui to outsiders, has hardened into a sullen resignation at being trapped in a broken system he failed to change, advisers told us.

“I sense a certain fatalism there, and it’s disturbing,” says a former adviser on Obama’s campaign who, like many others we talked with for this story, requested anonymity. “There’s a sense that ‘I’ve tried everything, and look where it got me.’ People misread it as disengagement. It’s frustration. But who cares? It’s a bad mind-set.” Another Obama veteran adds, “the bully pulpit is gone, maybe forever.”…

Many are convinced he has already given up, more or less. “He appears tired,” says Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and one of the few in his party who sees himself as a potential dealmaker in a GOP-controlled Senate. “It is almost as if he is wishing for a six-year term instead of an eight-year term,” added Corker, who would ascend to the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee if Republicans win the chamber. “But if he can get motivated and reenergized, I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the country.”

Obama and his team, gearing up for one final fight, say they are intent on not throwing away the next two-plus years. West Wing officials concede that Obama is weary of the endless partisan combat and the unrelenting six-year GOP strategy of attack, but they insist he has absolutely no intention of embracing his inner lame duck. “I’m not sitting here blithely telling you we are as awesome as we can be,” said one of Obama’s top aides, laughing at his own understatement. “We’ve done a lot of good things this year but not as many as I would have liked. … We know we’re in for a shit storm if we lose the Senate. You have to gird yourself mentally ’cause you are going to come out on the other end.